Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Buzzcocks - The Way

Admittedly, Buzzcocks were never necessarily a band with an urgent message; they weren't political, they didn't address complex feelings or concepts in a way that felt terribly gripping; they mostly offered simply put songs about unrequited love or hopelessness over basic pop punk chords (except, perhaps, the Steve Diggle-sung "Love is Lies," though even this is more or less of a similar formula). And as an older, former coworker once explained about their live shows, "there were always tons of girls at Buzzcocks shows."

If there's any common trait among punk bands that've either reunited or stayed together over a span of thirty or forty years, it's that they often wind up sounding like a cover band mimicking themselves, comprised of very competent session musicians. This could be the result of changing lineups so often. In the case of Buzzcocks, Steve Diggle and Pete Shelley remain, their most recent members having arrived only upon the most recent album or two, after a string of changes long enough to fill a baseball team.

The newest Buzzcocks record was produced to sound just like their live set plays out at a large venue -- big, booming drums that echo and battle against treble-heavy guitars -- and rightly so, because The Way very much resembles the sort of thing a band records after thirty-eight years of keeping up a punk image. Excellent material for a lively show, but little urgency or substance to compete with their reason for beginning as a band years before. The Way is entirely upbeat, little distinction to be made among tracks, and this follows along with the delight Diggle takes in playing rock star, though Shelley's voice has (understandably) lost its flamboyance and giddiness to match Diggle's enthusiasm. It'd be a wonderful surprise to see the band try something new, if only to show that there's real purpose in staying together and creating after two generations' time, and Shelley did experiment while branching out on his own for a bit, but the band is astute in their awareness of what people expect of them, and songs like "It's Not You" quite literally maintain the "I'm on my own now/what am I living for" content of the stuff that got them going in the first place. The newest is a bit tired, but it's a predictable delight.

Purchase The Way.

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